Much as any hockey purist would rather see the All Star game die a death as painful as it is to watch the tepid refraction of the highest sport while knowing real hockey could be played at that very moment. The All Star game is the shuffle footed lurching zombie that has suddenly taken the lead role in a A MidSummer Nights Dream. Just as the season is starting to settle in and teams have finally grasped their identities, just as teams are taking in that last deep breath before the run to the playoffs, and just as football is going away, right in that window between the football playoffs and when pitcher and catchers report the NHL squanders its chance to grab national attention. Instead of an event that is designed to go for the hearts and minds of people grieving the loss of their football teams Sunday showdowns, and not yet being fed their 162 doses of “the great american pastime” there exists a heaping pile of nothing. Since we know the All Star Game is when the NHL does it’s most impressive pandering to sponsors, thinking it will go away is foolish. So it needs to be fixed.
- Celebrity officials. Starlets like Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift could draw young audiences and serving as linesmen would keep them in the public eye. Since most of the audience for any given hockey game is male, having them dressed in something a bit more flattering than the standard uniform wouldn’t hurt a bit. Besides, watching guys like Patrick Kane and Matt Duchene flirt with them could be highly entertaining all by itself. Having MMA stars like Urijah Faber, Carlos Condit, or Cain Velesquez as the officials would be a draw and might pull in some of the MMA crowd that doesn’t watch team sports currently.
- Alumni or active player officials. This would be a boon to the NHL marketing department, instead of blacking out the jerseys of players who don’t get voted into the All Star game but were a part of the tv campaign have them play referee, goal judge or time keeper. Biases don’t matter since its a throw away game, and players like Andrew Ladd, or Sean Avery could be highly entertaining with the orange stripes. Giving a nod to retired greats like Bobby Clark, Rick Middleton, Chris Chelios, Andy Moog or Patrick Roy could only provide a gateway back in to some of the people who feel the NHL’s current administration has alienated more traditional hockey fans. In either case, the celebrities, alumni and active players could be rotated out after a period.
- Take the helmets off. Its not a real game, its not played at game speed, and no one is firing shots at 100 miles an hour. Taking off the helmets will make the players feel more approachable and for casual fans drawn into the spectacle, giving them every opportunity to form an attachment to a player and to the game is crucial.
- Video introductions for players, similar to what you see in football. Just a short clip that gives a soundbite of info on the player, and gives the audience something they might not know about the player.
- Make it a charity game. Allow fans to pick the charities to be benefited by each goal, penalty or save. Pick multiple charities (and not any of the NHL or franchise foundations well know charities like Habitat for Humanity or UNICEF) and let it build some buzz that way.
Any one or two of these could provide enough interest if executed properly to minimize the letdown that is the All Star Game after the skills competition and the weeks and months of build up to the game.